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Christopher Sommerfield



  • Ph.D., Coastal Oceanography, Stony Brook University, 1997
  • M.S., Marine Science, Stony Brook University, 1993
  • B.S., Geology, West Chester University, 1986


Geological oceanography; marine and estuarine sedimentary processes; radionuclide tracer methods and geochronology

Research Interests

I study coastal processes and geomorphology emphasizing continental shelf, estuarine, and tidal wetland environments. My research explores transport of sedimentary matter along hydrological pathways and how it accumulates to produce sedimentary strata. In recent work we are investigating historical human impacts on estuarine morphology and sedimentation to address questions of ecosystem sustainability. Another focus is tidal wetland morphodynamics, including marsh accretion and carbon sequestration.

A research specialty in my lab is use of naturally occurring and anthropogenic radionuclides (234Th, 7Be, 137Cs, 210Pb, 14C) as tracers of suspended particulate matter and sediment/soil chronometers.  Measured distributions of radionuclides convey information on particle transport, rates of sediment accumulation, and mixing processes. I maintain a sedimentology lab with a suite of gamma spectrometers for this work.

Current Projects

Coastal SEES: Toward Sustainable Urban Estuaries in the Anthropocene, National Science Foundation, collaborative research with WHOI, Rutgers, and LSU

Sediment Composition and Flux in Tidal Wetlands of Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Physical Dynamics of a Tidal Wetland Restoration Site, Delaware Sea Grant


  • MAST492: Marine Environmental Studies (3 credits, undergraduate)
  • MAST637: Geological Oceanography (3 credits, graduate/undergraduate)
  • MAST831: Coastal and Estuarine Sedimentology (3 credits, graduate)

Selected Publications

Ralston, D.K., Talke, S., Geyer, W.R., Al' Zubadaei, H., Sommerfield, C.K., 2019. Bigger tides, less flooding: Effects of dredging on barotropic dynamics in a highly modified estuary. JGR: Oceans.

J.-L. Chen, D.K. Ralston, W.R. Geyer, C.K. Sommerfield, Chant, R.J., 2018. Wave generation, dissipation, and disequilibrium in an embayment with complex bathymetry. JGR: Oceans, 123. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JC014381

Holmquist, J.R. and others, 2018. Accuracy and Precision of Tidal Wetland Soil Carbon Mapping in the Conterminous United States. Nature Scientific Reports. DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-26948-7.

Chant, R.J., Sommerfield, C.K., and Talke, S.A., 2018. Impact of channel deepening on tidal and gravitational circulation in a highly engineered estuarine basin. Estuaries and Coasts. DOI 10.1007/s12237-018-0379-6

Carr, E.W., Shirazi, Y., Parsons, G., Hoagland, P., Sommerfield, C.K., 2018. The economic value of carbon sequestration by wetlands in the Delaware Estuary: Historic estimates and future projections. Journal of Marine Management, 206: 40-50.

Velinsky, D.J., Paudela, B., and Sommerfield, C.K., 2017. Tidal marsh record of nutrient loadings in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey. Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue 78: 79-88.

Joesoef, A., Kirchman, D., Sommerfield, C.K., and Cai, W.J., 2017. Seasonal variability of the inorganic carbon system in a large coastal plain estuary. Biogeosciences, 14: 4949-4963.

Sommerfield, C.K., Duval, D.I., and Chant, R.J., 2017. Estuarine sedimentary response to Atlantic tropical cyclones. Marine Geology, 391: 65-75.

Boyd, B.M. and Sommerfield, C.K., 2017. Detection of fallout 241Am in U.S. Atlantic salt marsh soils. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2017.07.014

Boyd, B.M., Sommerfield, C.K., and Quirk, T.E., 2017. Hydrogeomorphic influences on salt marsh sediment accumulation and accretion in two estuaries of the U.S. Mid-Atlantic coast. Marine Geology, 383: 132-145.

McSweeney, J.M., Chant, R.J., Wilken, J.L. Sommerfield, C.K. Suspended-sediment impacts on light-limited productivity in the Delaware Estuary. Estuaries and Coasts. DOI 10.1007/s12237-016-0200-3

Unger, V., Elsey-Quirk, T., Sommerfield, C.K., and Velinsky, D.J., 2016. Stability of organic carbon accumulating in Spartina Alterniflora-dominated salt marshes of the Mid-Atlantic U.S. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 181: 179-189.

Boyd, B.M. and Sommerfield, C.K., 2016. Salt marsh accretion and sediment accumulation in a managed tidal wetland complex of Delaware Bay. Ecological Engineering, 92: 37-46.

McSweeney, J.M., Chant, R.J., Sommerfield, C.K., 2016. Lateral variability of sediment transport in the Delaware Estuary. Journal of Geophysical Research 121: 725-744.

Sommerfield, C.K., 2015. Qualities and limitations of fluvial suspended-sediment data published by the U.S. Geological Survey. Journal of Coastal Research, 32: 719-724.

Sommerfield, C.K. and Nittrouer, C.A., 2014. Comment on "Eel River margin source-to-sink sediment budgets: Revisited" by J.A. Warrick [Marine Geology, 351 (2014) 25–37], Marine Geology 357, 401-403.

Kemp, A.C., Telford, R.J., Horton, B.P., Anisfeld, S., Sommerfield, C.K., 2013. Reconstructing Holocene sea level using salt-marsh foraminifera and transfer functions: lessons from New Jersey, USA. Journal of Quaternary Research, 28: 617-629.

Moskalski, S.M. and Sommerfield, C.K., 2013. Effects of northeaster storms on water level and turbidity in a Delaware Bay subestuary. Journal of Coastal Research, 29: 205-213.

Kemp, A.C., Sommerfield, C.K., Vane, C.H., Chenery, S., Anisfeld, S., Horton, B.P., Nikitina, D., 2012. Use of lead isotopes in developing chronologies for recent salt marsh sediments. Quaternary Geochronology, 12: 40-49.

Moskalski, S.M., and Sommerfield, C.K., 2012. Suspended sediment deposition and trapping efficiency in a Delaware salt marsh. Geomorphology, 139–140: 195-204.

Moskalski, S.M., Sommerfield, C.K., and Wong, K.C., 2011. Oceanic and hydrologic influences on flow and water properties in the St. Jones River estuary, Delaware. Estuaries and Coasts, 34: 800-813.

Elsey-Quirk, T., Seliskar, D.M., Sommerfield, C.K., and Gallagher, J.L, 2011. Salt marsh carbon pool distribution in a Mid-Atlantic lagoon, USA: Implications for sea level rise. Wetlands, 31: 87-99.

Sommerfield, C.K. and Wong, K.C., 2011. Mechanisms of sediment flux and turbidity maintenance in the Delaware Estuary. Journal of Geophysical Research, 116, C01005, DOI 10.1029/ 2010JC006462.


• Geological Oceanography• Coastal-Zone Management


CEOE School & Departments

School of Marine Science & Policy

Advancing the understanding, stewardship, and conservation of estuarine, coastal, and ocean environments.

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Department of Earth Sciences

Discovering how geological processes have operated over various time scales to create and influence the planet’s surface environments.

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Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences

Providing a unique spatial perspective that seeks to explain patterns of differences and commonality across the human and natural environment.

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College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment • 111 Robinson Hall • Newark, DE 19716 • USA • Phone: 302-831-2841
Geography and Spatial Sciences: 302-831-2294 • Earth Sciences: 302-831-2569 • Marine Science and Policy: 302-645-4212 • E-mail: ceoe-info@udel.edu

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